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Rocky Mountain Region

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Bears

Colorado has been home to bears since their earliest ancestors evolved in North America. These large, powerful animals play an important role in the ecosystem. Today, increasing numbers of people routinely live and play in bear country, resulting in more bear/ human encounters. For many people, seeing a bear is rare and the highlight of an outdoor experience. Learning about bears and being aware of their habits will help you fully appreciate these unique animals and the habitat in which they live.

 

What to do if You Meet a Black Bear

There are no definite rules about what to do if you meet a bear. In almost all cases, the bear will detect you first and will leave the area. Bear attacks are rare compared to the number of close encounters. However, if you do meet a bear before it has had time to leave an area, here are some suggestions. Remember: Every situation is different with respect to the bear, the terrain, the people, and their activity.

Stay calm.
If you see a bear and it hasn’t seen you, calmly leave the area. As you move away, talk aloud to let the bear discover your presence.

Stop.
Back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact as bears may perceive this as a threat. Give the bear plenty of room to escape. Wild bears rarely attack people unless they feel threatened or provoked.

If on a trail, step off the trail on the downhill side and slowly leave the area. Don’t run or make any sudden movements. Running is likely to prompt the bear to give chase and you can’t outrun a bear. Do not attempt climbing trees to escape black bears. This may stimulate the bear to follow and pull you out by the foot. Stand your ground.

Speak softly.
This may reassure the bear that no harm is meant to it. Try not to show fear.

* In contrast to grizzly bears, female black bears do not normally defend their cubs aggressively; but send them up trees. However, use extra caution if you encounter a female black bear with cubs. Move away from the cub; be on the lookout for other cubs.

* Bears use all their senses to try to identify what you are. Remember: Their eyesight is good and their sense of smell is acute. If a bear stands upright or moves closer, it may be trying to detect smells in the air. This isn't a sign of aggression. Once it identifies you, it may leave the area or try to intimidate you by charging to within a few feet before it withdraws.

* Fight back if a black bear attacks you. Black bears have been driven away when people have fought back with rocks, sticks, binoculars and even their bare hands.

 

More information on bears can be found on the Colorado Division of Wildlife website.

Watch the BearAware video. [13.3mb wmv] You will need windows media player.

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